“Long COVID” Can Be a Disability Under the ADA. New Guidance From the DOJ and HHS.

Although many people with COVID-19 get better within weeks, some people continue to experience symptoms that can last months after first being infected, or may have new or recurring symptoms at a later time.  This can happen to anyone who has had COVID-19, even if the initial illness was mild.  People with this condition are sometimes called “long-haulers.”  This condition is known as “long COVID.”

In light of the rise of long COVID as a persistent and significant health issue, the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice have joined together to provide this guidance. 

This guidance explains that long COVID can be a disability under Titles II (state and local government) and III (public accommodations) of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), and Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Section 1557).  Each of these federal laws protects people with disabilities from discrimination. This guidance also provides resources for additional information and best practices.  This document focuses solely on long COVID, and does not address when COVID-19 may meet the legal definition of disability.

The civil rights protections and responsibilities of these federal laws apply even during emergencies.  They cannot be waived.

This guidance, along with a directory of resources available through programs funded by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), was shared this morning by the White House as part of a comprehensive package of resources for people with long COVID. Click here to access the resources from the White House.

Click here for a direct link to the new long COVID guidance from HHS.

For additional resources, please visit this page from HHS’ Office of Civil Rights.

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